Mahoning Valley wins Walmart $1M Hunger Challenge

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - It won't be official until Walmart announces who will receive the $1 million dollar check on May 15th, but the Mahoning Valley rallied to take the number one spot in the Walmart Fighting Hunger Together challenge.

The Valley really came together to capture the number one spot, and an expected $1 million dollar grant by racking up 98,690 votes beating out Johnson City, Tennessee by more than 32-thousand votes, as well as Fresno, California which came in third.

Michael Iberis, the Executive Director of the Second Harvest Food Bank, says, "Well this money's going to be a really big boost to us because we're going to be able to work more with the farmers in the tri-county area."

The Second Harvest Food Bank says local grocers already donate meat, and national manufacturers and local supermarkets donate peanut butter and other non-perishables. So they hope to use the money to pay local farmers for fresh produce, and then have educational classes on how to prepare family meals.

"So we certainly, certainly could use this money for shelf stable product. However, I think we can get a good bang for our buck with produce and help the people to put more nutritious meals on their table by actually taking this produce and preparing meals from scratch," Iberis said.

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Those who work for local food pantries feel the $1 million grant is a gift. The need is real and making fresh produce available to those who use the food pantries is critical.

Lisa Petro with the Emmanuel Community Care Center in Girard says, "Well people really can't afford fresh fruits and vegetables, so when we bring back fresh produce, sometimes once a week, it just goes very quickly. They look forward to it. Because it's something they don't get all the time."